Damon Dash Defeated in Copyright Infringement Suit
Steven T. Lowe
On July 7th, 2021, in a unanimous, unpublished decision, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court’s finding that entrepreneur Damon “Dame” Dash (“Dash”) was guilty of copyright infringement. The ruling held that Dash infringed upon the copyright of an upstart author/filmmaker named Edwyna Brooks (“Brooks”) movie “Mafietta” when Dash placed it for sale through his studio’s online platforms without any right to do so. As a result, Dash was found to owe the “Mafietta” author and filmmaker $300,000.
The Second Circuit panel rejected Dash’s argument that the lower court should have determined that Dash co-authored the film with Brooks and retained the right to sell it. Brooks, who wrote a four-part book series about an “aspiring female crime boss,” alleged that she met Dash at a seminar in 2015, where he expressed an interest in directing the film.
According to the complaint, in 2016, they hammered out an agreement under which Dash would be paid 50% of the revenues from the exploitation of the film in return for Dash’s directing and marketing services. However, according to the complaint, Brooks fired Dash later that year.
Despite being fired, Dash posted about the film on Instagram and placed the movie in his subscription-based iTunes store, Dame Dash Studios, a year later. Brooks asked iTunes to remove the movie but was told that the Dame Dash Studios team had full copyright to this title. As a result, Brooks filed her complaint in February 2019, alleging copyright infringement.
In April 2020, the district court sided with Brooks, enjoining Dash from marketing, advertising, promoting, distributing, selling, or copying the film, and further ordered Dash to pay Brooks $300,000. Dash appealed, claiming that he and Brooks co-authored the film and that it was a joint work, and therefore Sash had the right to license and sell it, subject to his obligation to account to Brooks.
But the Second Circuit pointed to the numerous agreements under which Dash was defined as a “work-for-hire.” Dash had argued that they reached an oral contract of 50/50 ownership, but the district court found his testimony unpersuasive, and the Second Circuit affirmed.
Judges Pierre N. Leval, José Alberto Cabranes, and William J. Nardini sat on the panel for the Second Circuit.
Brooks is represented by Christopher Brown of Brown & Rosen LLC.
Dash is represented by Natraj S. Bhushan of Turturro Law PC.
The case is Edwyna W. Brooks v. Dash, case number 20-1488, in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.
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